Hiring an Intern? Make Sure You Have Your Bases Covered

Dec 17, 2013

Campus recruiting teams are preparing to hit the road to canvass colleges and universities, searching for the next batch of 2014 interns. If your company is hoping to hire interns this year, follow these points to ensure a mutually beneficial experience for both your company and its interns.

1. Let’s Talk Money

Typically, employers hear the word intern and think “free labor.” Unpaid internships are legal; however there are guidelines that must be followed. If your company is a for-profit organization, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states, “Interns in the ‘for-profit’ private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.”

To determine if your internship program is exempt from paying wages, review the Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines below. Each rule applies.

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If you choose to go the unpaid route, you must meet all of the above criteria. Organizations often find item #4 difficult to fulfill. The employer may not receive “advantage from the activities of the intern,” meaning that the success of the business does not depend on the intern. If your intern is filing papers, taking calls, or scheduling appointments, an employer/employee relationship exists and the intern should be paid.

Keeping the above guidelines in mind, it is important to note that paying your interns is a best practice and highly encouraged. Talent is talent whether it’s in the form of an internship or a regular employee. You want the best and paying fairly for a job well done is a must.

2. The Benefit Factor

Hiring an intern is a benefit for both of you. Your intern has an opportunity to learn the business side of what they’ve been studying all year. They’re excited and ready to get started. Harness this energy and task them with some of the administrative duties that bog down your leadership team. Your intern gets to learn the basics but gets to participate in a meaningful way and your managers are free to handle more strategic items.

For example, you’ve got a big HR audit approaching and need to get your file room organized and those I-9 forms accounted for. However, you’ve also got an HR department to manage along with 20 open roles to fill. Because you spend most of your time engaging with and sourcing candidates, the audit preparation is on hold, but the deadline is looming. An intern is the perfect solution. Task your intern with the audit prep. Not only will they have the energy and drive to make the task successful, they may even have some great ideas on how to streamline the process. With the tasks divided up, you’ve got your file room under control and your calendar brimming with candidate interviews.

3. Brand It!

Any way you slice it, your brand is going to be represented. Shine the spotlight on your internship program. Show the industry, the twitter-sphere, and the world that your organization values talent and places a premium on great work and innovation. If you have a meaningful experience to provide, do so using the proper guidelines and best practices to ensure a positive outcome.

Intern or not, every hire is a touch point for your brand. What goes on behind closed doors is quickly shared with everyone else. The employment experience has a lasting effect. Your intern will share his thoughts and perspective with anyone who will listen. The intern will either be a terrific brand ambassador or they’ll want nothing to do with you or your products.

So, if you’ve got an internship program with 20 interns or just one, make the experience count. This is a learning opportunity, and they want to leave with more than just a t-shirt.

Share the success of the program and become a leader in creating a positive environment for interns to learn, grow and contribute.

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